Oracle Sues Google

The only certainty on this one is that some lawyers are sure to make money.

Lets see if I explain what this is all about. Sun Systems created Java, and released it to the world under the GPL license, GPL says the software is free, but after modifying it, it must remain free. and it must have the official GPL license attached to it.

The GPL is the first and foremost copyleft license, which means that derived works can only be distributed under the same license terms. Under this philosophy, the GPL grants the recipients of a computer program the rights of the free software definition and uses copyleft to ensure the freedoms are preserved, even when the work is changed or added to. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD licenses are the standard examples.

Google decided to use Java and to modify part of it called the run time virtual  machine to use in their Android mobile operating system. They licensed it under  the Apache License agreement. Which allows software developed using the new VM to be less than free and open sourced.

Like any free software license, the Apache License allows the user of the software the freedom to use the software for any purpose, to distribute it, to modify it, and to distribute modified versions of the software, under the terms of the license.

The Apache License, like BSD licenses, does not require modified versions of the software to be distributed using the same license (in contrast to copyleft licenses). In every licensed file, any original copyright, patent, trademark, and attribution notices in redistributed code must be preserved (excluding notices that do not pertain to any part of the derivative works); and, in every licensed file changed, a notification must be added stating that changes have been made to that file.

If a NOTICE text file is included as part of the distribution of the original work, then derivative works must include a readable copy of these notices (again, excluding notices not pertaining to any part of the derivative work), in at least one of three places: within a NOTICE text file distributed as part of the derivative works, within the source form or documentation, or within a display generated by the derivative works (wherever such third-party notices normally appear). The contents of the NOTICE file do not modify the license, as they are for informational purposes only, and adding more attribution notices as addenda to the NOTICE text is permissible, provided that these notices cannot be understood as modifying the license. Modifications may have appropriate copyright notices, and may provide different license terms for the modifications.

This breaks GPL agreement. Sun knew this but decide not to act, I believe they just didn’t see any reason too. Google must have realized they exposed themselves to litagation.  Red monk speculates:

In estimating the risks of such action, Google could have reasonably assumed that the probability of Sun suing them was near zero. Sun may have been unhappy, and may even have suspected that Google’s cleanroom reimplementation was anything but. The Vegas line would still have been decidedly tilted against Sun turning to legal action.

Maybe Sun’s reluctance to sue was financial. I’m personally skeptical of this claim – companies with failing financial fortunes in my experience are generally more inclined to seek legal remedies to their problems, not less – but Shankland’s sources are always good. Even if this were the case, however, Google couldn’t have assumed that would suffice as a shield. Instead, the search giant would have expected Sun to behave consistently with its past behavior and future interests. …

Sun, in other words, was not going to sue Google. And Google knew it.

After a while Sun who has been in financial trouble for years was bought up and taken over by Oracle. Oracle decides to sue. Why is  not exactly clear. Oracle is going to lose of confidence with Java users , who are likely top shy away from using Java at least until this is settled Oracle isn’t going to win any good will. Maybe there is some kind of arrangement with Apple hinted at by SiliconANGLE :

In developing Android, Google knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property. This lawsuit seeks appropriate remedies for their infringement…”

This unexpected move by Oracle sends a strong and threatening message to Google and the entire Android community—specifically that Oracle will use its intellectual property rights to get compensated for innovations around the exploding mobile marketplace. Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison is inserting himself in the middle of an ever-evolving battle between Google CEO (and former Apple Director) Eric Schmidt, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, a long-time friend of Ellison’s.

Like they say, “I am not a lawyer.”, and I don’t even begin to understand all thats going on.

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